Education: A Lifelong Practice

17 min read

Education options are a critical factor for any family looking to consider life in a new community.

The NewVistas concept would be unlikely to succeed without continually demonstrating that raising children in a NewVistas community can provide at least as much as public-school options in the region. Even those without children would like to know that their tax dollars are well spent and will yield valuable contributions to their community.

And there is always something new that adults would like to learn throughout their lives, but they simply don’t have the time or resources to make it happen.

By focusing education efforts across all ages, mental and physical abilities, and skill levels, education solutions can work over a larger scale.

By continually developing community education policy through a three-pillared education system, teaching efforts are continually encouraged, mentorship is available, and expanding mastery in new and interesting areas becomes more possible for every member of the community.

One advances in their career and in the NewVistas econosystem based on ability and not on grade level or performance in unrelated activities. Each community trust has the discretion to incentivize educational activities to a greater extent than in other parts of the ecosystem.

And the trusts are expected to maintain information systems that connect appropriately matched students and teachers and provide access to a wealth of educational resources.

Participation in any community education program is largely optional, but given the eased access and promising paths of development offered, substantial participation is anticipated across all ages and abilities.

As high participation is critical to a successful econosystem, communities must continually work, through the lens of the three pillars discussed below, to ensure that labor needs are met and that residents are personally and intellectually fulfilled.

Current Education Issues

National one-size-fits-all policies can often struggle to address different learning styles, abilities, cultures, and other differentiating factors.

Federal standardized testing requirements are one way we have strived to ensure schools were funded and met essential pedagogical needs.

But an unintended result is that continually prepping students through six years of testing increases costs, incentivizes arbitrary grouping of students and teachers across all subjects, and distracts many otherwise effective schools from their core education objectives.

Many U.S. states can be fairly lenient as to what is required in a homeschool or independent school arrangement. But parents of children outside of the public-school system still bear the costs of the public school system,(( Lobbying to maintain those systems further increases costs and often perpetuates policies that don’t serve the intended populations. Valerie Strauss, Big Education Firms Spend Millions on Lobbying for Pro-Testing Policies (Mar. 30, 2015).)) and they do not receive any form of equivalent subsidy to assist with the alternative education program they have chosen.

Education faces other problems tied to related social and economic issues, which a NewVistas community also works to address. U.S. schools are more segregated than they have been in decades.(( Gov. Accountability Office Study: Segregation worsening in U.S. schools, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/05/17/gao-study-segregation-worsening-us-schools/84508438/ (last visited Dec. 2, 2016).))

Divisions of social and economic classes make it difficult for many school systems to achieve the number of participants needed to support more individualized education plans and a healthy cross-pollination of ideas.

Many parents are overworked and are often commuting several hours each day to support expensive isolated homes, disconnected from basic needs, and in locales failing to offer a school system that parents can put their confidence in.

They don’t have the time to supplement their child’s education directly—let alone take the time to further their own education.

Charter schools have shown some promise in some states, but many charter schools are often controlled by purely for-profit entities, and their incentives can be misaligned with serving the needs of children.

Existing education systems to date have allowed the world to advance in many respects.

Perhaps we haven’t had adequate technology or been organized enough as people to create a more affordable and individualized education system or to provide public support for education throughout life.

The physical and legal structure of a NewVistas community, and the technology it employs, are intended to free more resources—so that more is available to care for ourselves, others, and our community.

A NewVistas community prioritizes its resources toward maintaining a healthy learning environment for all individuals.

NewVistas Education Goals & Recommendations

A NewVistas community needs to find a way to ensure that its residents can meet the requirements of the jurisdiction while leaving both parents and children adequate time to pursue their passions, achieve their potential, and help the rest of the community to do the same.

As in all econosystem industries, local consumption of educational goods and services must be encouraged for the benefit of the education economy and the econosystem as a whole.

While traditional Public Schools could be located within a NewVistas community, the community should prefer options that would allow more flexibility in the lives of teachers and students.

Instead, a system of facilitated homeschooling, private instruction, and independent schools can create a greater supply of more tailored educational opportunities.

Practical work experience needs to be encouraged from a young age to foster a strong work ethic from the start and to create more opportunities to find careers where the student can thrive most.

Such academic and career fulfillment must be encouraged to continue throughout life to the extent feasible—both for the health and wellbeing of the elderly and disabled and the sustainable productivity of the community.

Essential Education

Essential Education refers to the only aspect of a NewVistas community’s education system that might be compulsory in some communities.

The integrity of the NewVistas system requires that it maintain a reputation of families that are complying with all legal education requirements for their children.(( Depending on enforceability, communities may require that all parents or guardians ensure their children meet legally mandated public education requirements, and that regulated professionals meet their education requirements. Membership in a NewVistas community may require minimal coursework as needed to ensure that members an understanding of the current economic and physical community systems and can effectively leverage them.))

These relate to both the requirements mandated by the jurisdiction and the education necessary to ensure all residents of all ages have adequate knowledge and skill to take advantage of living in a NewVistas community.

And likewise, any professionals that live or operate in a NewVistas community are required to comply with any prerequisite or ongoing education requirements.

The Trust would also require some minimum education for individuals to maintain the skills needed to use the various systems to leverage the available NewVistas community resources.

As discussed in the pillars section below, mentoring through various personal, academic, and professional pursuits is a central institution in a NewVistas community. With the rise of self-educating solutions like the Khan Academy, a student may be able to teach themselves much of their essential requirements.

But strong mentoring will always be needed to guide students throughout their lives through all forms of learning and keep them on an academic path that makes sense for them.

Essential education of minors requires sufficient resources within the community to help facilitate the work of homeschooling parents, instructors, and independent schools and the mentors that help them navigate these options.

There must therefore be enough education “consumers” for the number of students needed to support an affordable and effective program. Ensuring the availability of sufficient resources for education and the econosystem as a whole requires that individuals are not spending excessive time, money, and energy traveling for goods and services that can be obtained on-site at equal or better quality.

A NewVistas community does not bar residents from engaging in the economy outside of the NewVistas but only incentivizes purchases within the community.

But in terms of education, joining a NewVistas community will usually mean opting out of the public school systems.((It may be that a NewVistas system is located in a jurisdiction with very specific education requirements and that the jurisdiction will require that a public school of some form is located within the community. This could potentially work in conjunction with the education systems set up by the NewVistas community, depending on how compatible the public program is with the rest of the NewVistas education program. A NewVistas would be unlikely to locate in such a jurisdiction that would require students to go off campus, as the community would then lack the volume required for a sustainable lifelong education system. The econosystem would be compromised as residents would have more difficulty finding the time needed to thrive in their own careers continually, and many resources would be spent coordinating their children’s education off-site.))

Ideally, the NewVistas community will have entered an arrangement with the jurisdiction to limit its tax obligations to reflect the fact that it is not making use of the school system.

The NewVistas community takes measures to help ensure that all homeschooling and independent schooling activity occurring within its borders is compliant.

And regardless of reporting requirements of the jurisdiction, parents and guardians would report to village presidents bi-annually with the education plans for their children.((The opt-out requirement does not mean that a parent is barred from taking a child to an evening class in a town nearby a NewVistas, or even having the child attend an overseas summer program. But the more community members use transportation and energy resources, and the more they remove funds from the community, the costlier it can become to stay there. The various incentives in place to maintain a healthy local economy are discussed elsewhere.))

Supplemental Education

Supplemental education refers to all other hours of education which are required by the jurisdiction or which at a minimum, but without any specific requirement as to subject matter.(( See Coalition for Responsible Home Education, Instruction Time & Subject Requirements, https://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/policy-issues/current-policy (providing links to state-specific information about homeschooling requirements in the U.S. and links to information about hour and subject requirements) (last visited Dec. 6, 2016).))

A NewVistas community would likely require minor children over 5 to have at least one thousand (1,000) hours of learning experience each year.

So if the jurisdiction does not have an hour-based requirement, a NewVistas community would nonetheless require that a minor student remain academically active for one thousand (1,000) hours per year for much of their youth.

Like essential learning, supplemental learning is also provided through a combination of homeschooling, private instruction, and independent schooling.

It is through supplemental learning that a student truly gets to explore their unique areas of interest and begin one or more viable career paths.

Here, the student, or their parent or guardian, have more freedom to select a course of study suited to the student’s interests and learning style.

Much of the coursework requires essential coursework as prerequisites, and supplemental coursework is often a prerequisite to an internship or apprenticeship.

Mentored Homeschooling and Private Instruction

Homeschooling is, at its essence, a combination of course instruction and mentored learning.

An education plan could involve having a child meet their education requirements by having their child homeschooled entirely by the parent or through private instruction from other qualified persons if the jurisdiction allows for it.

Ideally, parents are homeschooling their children to extent of their ability and then volunteering some time instructing or mentoring others. Communities may require that all Trust participants spend some amount of time mentoring others if they can do so.

All children are expected to engage in some level of mentored learning, where another resident guides them through a particular subject and confirms whether they’ve mastered that subject or simply mentors them through managing their academic plan or other life obligations.

Those providing mentorship, instruction, or homeschooling for their children will have access to necessary community resources.

Much of the educational property acquired over time by the NewVistas educational enterprises, such as lesson plans, tests, new and reused books, and learning software, will be available to teachers or independent schools (discussed below) for free or at a reduced cost. All NewVistas community mentors and teachers will have the resources necessary to accommodate the full range of learning styles.

The econosystem should give parents the time and flexibility to participate more actively in their children’s education. But a NewVistas community does try to limit the amount of time any one person spends teaching in one day to help ensure they stay passionate about the responsibility.(( A NewVistas provides labor coop credit for a limited number of teaching hours per day. A three (3) hour limitation would likely be in place initially but would be subject to change based on current research as may be determined by the overseeing foundation. See, e.g., Jessica Shepherd, Limit Teaching to Four Hours a Day, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/apr/02/limit-teaching-four-hours-a-day-union (last visited Dec. 5, 2016).))

Robust Independent Schooling

To the extent the system is unable to meet essential needs through individual instructors and mentors, a NewVistas community will ensure affordable options are available through independent school options.

Such organizations will be enabled by the community with financing, reduced-cost classroom space, equipment, and other resources. More favorable arrangements will be given to those educational enterprises that are best serving current education goals as determined by the Community Trust.

The jurisdiction could also provide some funding to such schools serving children who aren’t making use of the public school system.

Unlike some charter schools or privately owned colleges, no person will have a direct financial interest vested in the educational organization unless they are a part of operating it on a day-to-day basis.

The Trust retains IP and other control over these entities that would allow them to shift the use of certain resources if an organization is not properly looking after the educational needs of the community.

Hands-On Learning

Hands-on learning refers to any kind of learning through work experience within the NewVistas education system.

This includes both internships and apprenticeships, as well as work for family businesses. Hands-on learning can be used to fulfill some aspects of both essential and supplemental education. But ideally, students will be engaging in hands-on learning well beyond their minimum education requirements.

Internships are shorter courses of study and are more likely to be used to fulfill essential or supplemental requirements. They are offered throughout the year on a quarter system and would typically be paid at least minimum wage.((It is assumed that all internships are benefitting the employer, and a wage would need to be paid. Learning experiences that burden the employer more than benefit them would fall into the category of essential or supplemental coursework. See U.S. Department of Labor, FLSA status of student interns, https://www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/FLSANA/2004/2004_05_17_05FLSA_NA_internship.htm (defining “intern” under Fair Labor Standards Act) (“The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion, the employer’s operations may actually be impeded.”) (last visited Dec. 6, 2016).))

Internships are made available to those 12 or older, and possibly at younger ages if the jurisdiction allows for it.

The success of the NewVistas concept relies heavily on optimizing the work ethic and abilities within the community and enabling each individual to pursue what they care most about. The theory is that this will result in greater productivity, higher-quality goods and services, and a healthier population.

This is one reason why the econosystem precedes implementation of the physical community so that we know the first NewVistas are beginning with a strong and satisfied workforce.

From there, a NewVistas community wants to ensure that the children are raised with at least an equally strong work ethic, and the physical community can help provide that.

While NewVistas limits its role in telling parents how to raise their children, it ensures that the opportunities are there for parents to engage.

Parents are encouraged to have their children work for them if possible, as jurisdictions typically allow working for parents well before they can work for another. This may be incentivized by the community at times through various means.

When a child is old enough to work for a non-parent, this is also incentivized with community resources that match the child up with the right mentor and work opportunity.

If it makes sense to structure the arrangement as an internship, the community will provide resources to support the activity and may even supplement the wage.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are lengthier work opportunities, totaling 2,000 hours or more over several years, and are more often pursued by adults.

They provide a higher rate of pay, which increases by meeting benchmarks. A NewVistas community makes added efforts to see apprenticeships occur because of their propensity to generate productive and fulfilled citizens.

Community-financed VistaBizzes are required to make apprenticeships available based on their size. As described elsewhere, individuals are incentivized to avoid working for just one organization, and they are given additional pay from the Trust for exploring work at new VistaBizzes.

This can be done in combination with an apprenticeship.

Affordability

A goal of the econosystem is to ensure everyone can afford to send their children to some amount of formerly organized instruction.

Any issues of residents having difficulty meeting needs are ideally addressed through financing arrangements when they become a member of the community.

Through human services and other healthcare support systems described below, those who are or become disabled have ideally been able to maintain the minimum income and wealth levels needed to support their children’s education and other basic needs.

Were any parent or guardian nonetheless having difficulty affording education for their children, the Trust would have the discretion to provide special financing or other accommodations to ensure that their students stay in school.

Subject Matter

There would be no limits to the courses of study available in a NewVistas, and they will be based on what the community can offer.

As discussed in the three pillars section below, enabling residents to track and share their mastery of a range of subjects is critical to confirming progress and connecting students to the next best-suited academic or career opportunity.

So, the subject area could be defined by the teachers that are confirming the students’ progress. More defined tests, which nonetheless include a subjective assessment of a mentor or teacher, would be in place for most essential education offerings as needed to meet jurisdictional requirements.

States tend to be fairly flexible about subject content, often requiring only critical core subjects such as reading, writing, arithmetic, and history, and with no particular hours requirement.

Ideally, a NewVistas community and the jurisdiction would align in determining what is essential to a child’s education, and little beyond state requirements would be required for a minor student’s essential education.(( [1] See, e.g., 6 V.S.A. § 906(b) (2016) (requiring Vermont home study and independent schools to generally provide “learning experiences adapted to a student’s age and ability in the fields of: (1) basic communication skills, including reading, writing, and the use of numbers; (2) citizenship, history, and government in Vermont and the United States; (3) physical education and comprehensive health education, including the effects of tobacco, alcoholic drinks, and drugs on the human system and on society; (4) English, American, and other literature; (5) the natural sciences; and (6) the fine arts.”).))

Other essential subjects, which may not be required by a jurisdiction, would include NewVistas-specific courses in personal health, sustainability, and the environment, and in other evolving topics relating to ongoing issues affecting NewVistas communities.

All NewVistas communities within a particular jurisdiction will collaborate in developing essential education requirements that meet their shared goals and the goals of the hosting jurisdiction.

Setting Daily Learning Goals

The total hours of essential education for minors are not expected to exceed 600 hours annually. In a fairly typical jurisdiction, it is expected that an average student could complete all essential jurisdictional requirements in 500 hours or less and complete the NewVistas specific requirements in the remaining 100 hours.

Adults will also need to be and remain competent in the NewVistas specific subject areas, but the average high-school-educated adult should be able to do so in far less time than a child.

Tests or other assessments may be used to ensure that they have mastered the necessary areas and no longer require essential education until a new NewVistas course becomes required (for example, a brief web course due to a change in community operations or some other current issue facing the community).

Whether or not essential learning is being pursued, it is hoped that each individual would pursue 1,000 hours of learning each year throughout most of their lives and at least 1,000 hours of working and mentoring combined.

So, for example, an individual who spends three hundred (300) days each year in the community, and actively participates while there, may have a daily blend of activities that looks something like the following:

Higher Education

Higher education is not required by law in most professions and therefore is not viewed as essential in a NewVistas unless one is pursuing a profession requiring college coursework. VistaBizzes are required to hire based on proven skill and not make considerations based on higher-education degrees.

Very few NewVistas communities would likely have any form of accredited college on-site—at least not in the form we are typically familiar with.

The expense of college and relocating there for several years is less justified in a world where we can now collaborate and share resources more easily than ever before, and it is certainly not scalable and sustainable for everyone worldwide.

NewVistas communities would strive to have their education program equipped to handle the jurisdictional requirements of all professions.

By working with regulators to adjust requirements or by leveraging global collaborations with other NewVistas communities and other educational institutions, most educational needs can be met from within a NewVistas community’s borders.

Students can take advantage of those global opportunities while still contributing to the community that made their education possible.

Continuing Education

The only other reason an adult would be required to engage in essential education programs would be if they were seeking a career with educational prerequisites or have a career with continuing education responsibilities.

It would be a condition of residency that one does not operate in a profession without being in full compliance with appropriate regulations.

The community would strive to have offerings to fulfill these requirements or if it couldn’t make such measures, would provide the student with some degree of flexibility so that they could pursue unmet portions of the course of study elsewhere.

Education Policy: A Three-Pillared Approach

The three pillars of a NewVistas education relate to the blend of learning experiences that each community enables residents to pursue.

They reflect policies of the communities to encourage a balanced mix of (1) teaching; (2) guided mentorship; and (3) demonstrated mastery.((The three pillars of a NewVistas education is an independently developed concept, but they do resemble learning rubrics demonstrated in other education initiatives. UNESCO offers four pillars in its guiding principles of education: Knowing, Doing, Living Together (socializing), and Being. Some religious teachings emphasize similar pillars. Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment are described as the Three Pillars of Zen, which is the title of the widely read book on Zen Buddhism by Philip Kapleau. The NewVistas education pillars similarly represent a recommended daily lifelong practice, but the policies do not prescribe the substance of the education, nor any guiding principles of any religion. The Good Life by Helen Nearing, provides a more secular reflection of similar ideas in this nonfiction experiential guide to homesteading. This book promotes a healthy blend of academic, survival, and social activities—calling for 4 hours of each on daily basis. This is perhaps closest to the NewVistas concept, but the policies do not dictate how one should achieve the blend through the year or on a given day. And the social component is replaced by mastery—promoting high-level social and economic interactions by connecting continually those with similar or supplemental knowledge and ability.))

The first pillar exists to encourage educating ourselves and others and focuses on enabling the teaching side of the transaction.

Similarly, guided mentorship promotes mentoring through general life management and academia, as well as in internships and apprenticeships.

Learning is directly emphasized through the mastery pillar, which establishes policies to confirm the effectiveness of the community-supported teaching and mentoring activities.

The three pillars of a NewVistas education encourage a balanced mix of (1) teaching; (2) guided mentorship; and (3) demonstrated mastery.

These pillars of a NewVistas education are discussed in detail below.

With policies driven by the goal of maintaining these pillars, the result is a more affordable education custom-tailored to each student, lifelong learning that creates a stronger member base; and the volume of education participants needed to boost the effectiveness of the education system as a whole.

Teaching

In a NewVistas, one can carry out many roles in one day. One could spend half their VistaBiz owner, and the other half divided between working for another VistaBiz, and as a Village President.

The role of teaching can occur in any of these capacities, and each community incentivizes teaching moments to occur in a variety of ways.

While the NewVistas education system largely puts the onus on the student to direct their education, it is critical that they have the resources.

The teaching pillar guides and enables communities to ensure that the necessary teaching resources are available, whether it be self-educating tools, qualified and adequately paid teachers, school supplies, or whatever else may be needed.

When evaluating a community’s success in this pillar, the community will look at how much educational activity is occurring, who is creating actual progress, and what areas are not being served that need to be.

Community decisions to allocate resources will be largely driven by this information.

Mentored Learning

Mentors provide an unbiased perspective of a child or adult’s academic or career path and the guidance needed to help the student achieve their goals.

Mentoring relates less to learning as the teaching pillar but rather refers to perfecting the practice of life, learning, and work. They help students of all ages get through the challenges of daily life—whether it’s just learning to pack a good lunch and be ready for the day or helping someone seize a career change opportunity and avoid unemployment.

Mentors are matched with particular students by coordinating with their village president and with the assistance of systems, which account for the student’s mastery to date, and which mentors or teachers they have worked well with in the past.

The village president remains available to ensure the mentoring experience goes well and to help the mentor advocate for the student’s needs.

Everybody in a NewVistas community is expected to contribute in some capacity, whether through community governance or other volunteer work.

But mentoring is emphasized most, and communities may require that individuals engage in at least some mentoring each year.

Demonstrated Mastery

Mentors also help guide the child to academic and practical offerings that the student can pursue passionately and where the student can feasibly attain mastery of the subject area.

Mastery in a NewVistas refers to the alternative used over the traditional A to F grading system in all NewVistas learning experiences. It is effectively a pass/fail grading system for both classroom and hands-on courses of study.

The system protects the students from underserved blemishes on their records resulting from taking classes they weren’t equipped for or otherwise ready to pursue.

And it ensures that they have at least some minimal level of skill before proceeding to the next stage of study or work experience in a subject area. Mentors can assist students in areas where they are struggling to attain mastery so they can proceed to the next stage or can help in creating a course plan which can ultimately help the student achieve mastery of marketable skills that are also fulfilling for the student to pursue.

A student’s attainment of mastery through classroom or work experience is confidentially tracked for the student.

The student, or their parent or guardian, has the option to disclose portions of this background as much or as little as they like, as may be needed for job searches or pursuits of various academic opportunities.